Archive for June, 2018|Monthly archive page

Between a Roar and a Purr: American Animals

In Uncategorized on June 28, 2018 at 16:59

American Animals image

American Animals, written and directed by Bart Layton, takes the heist film into unchartered territory. First of all, the conspirators aren’t suave criminals, they are mainly bored kids. Second, the plot isn’t unrealistically complicated with eight or more criminals: it’s a four-person job. And lastly, these criminals are amateurs in all senses of the word. They are clueless and not heroic. All those elements make for an interesting, if not always compelling, film. 

It’s filmed well, the soundtrack is timeless, and the casting is spot on. The use of the real-life criminals as they are today is good touch. The former co-conspirators make it clear that some of their memories might be less than accurate, and they add a layer of emotional context that keeps the film interesting. The real criminals end up being more interesting than the characters in the film.  

The pacing and inability to make the heist an urgent plot element in a weakness in the film. Another problem is that while I learn about the characters, I don’t care about them or their struggles. They are boring. Moreover, the crime is tacked on to the characters, an afterthought. 

Rating: Matinee
It’s not a great heist film, it’s a moderate successful character study. American Animals is more realistic than most heist movies. I recommend this film, but for contrast also see Hell or High Water where the motivations of the brothers are more compelling and their characters are more completely flushed out than in American Animals. 

Won’t you be my Neighbor?

In Uncategorized on June 26, 2018 at 23:24


Mr. Rogers Converts this Cynic: A Review of ‘Won’t you be my Neighbor?’

As a kid, I never like Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. It was too cloying for me, even in my youth. I was more of a Bugs Bunny fan. I loved that smart-alecky wascally wabbit. The thing is, Mr. Rogers would have been totally okay with that. He would have sat with me for a real conversation and made it clear that he liked me just the way I was. He would have even learned why I liked the rabbit, just by listening. I liked Bugs because he stood up for himself and used his smarts. Mr. Rogers did that too in his own, quiet way.  

If the film industry wants a cure for what ails them, they don’t have to look further than documentaries. ‘Notorious RGB’ about the life of Ruth Bader Ginsberg has already grossed $10 million in theaters on a $6 million-dollar budget. By the time the film goes to streaming and online sales, that will be large profit margin indeed. Last year’s outstanding ‘I am not your Negro.’ It garnered $7.7 million dollars for a film about a far more controversial figure, James Baldwin, on a budget of $1 million dollars. ‘Won’t you be my Neighbor’ was release two weeks ago and has over $4 million in sales. Wait until those that grew up with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood get a chance to buy the DVD or the digital download. That will push it over the top. 


In all seriousness, fans of the Neighborhood will not be disappointed. The documentary uses the standard techniques of interviews with people who survived Fred Rogers and archival footage of his show, appearances in interviews, and during speeches. Like the show itself, the film deals with hard issues, but leaves us optimistic. 

On Roger’s show, he dealt the assassination of RFK. He did a whole week on death. He also addressed racism by making his Neighborhood diverse as a matter of course. When whites in certain communities were kicking out black kids from their white’s only pools, Rogers had his black friend, Officer Clemmons, share a foot bath with him in a child’s wading pool. Any white kids who liked Mr. Rogers had a chance to learn by example that it was okay to be in a pool with black people. 

Mr. Rogers sincerely recognized that everyone is special, and that enraged some conservative. They attack the idea of the innate value of all humans, believing that promoted the idea that “people should get something for nothing.” That wasn’t what he was saying. He was telling us to love thy neighbor, and conservatives who pretend to be Christians couldn’t be bothered to act like one or have compassion for others. By the way, Rogers was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. 

After seeing the film, this cynic is left wondering during these troubled times, WWFRD. 

Rating: Pay Full Price
Even if you weren’t a fan of his show or never heard of him, this film is a revelation. You might learn something and be less cynical. 

Hereditary: A Maladapted Mutation

In Uncategorized on June 17, 2018 at 21:53


Hereditary is a mess of a film. The beginning looks great. Then the plot starts, and it goes downhill from there. It briefly picks up with some scares and hope comes back that it might be a good horror film. But alas, the film quickly becomes a litany of horror film tropes and becomes laughable. People were actually laughing at the film in the theater at one point. They were laughs of derision, not laughs of uncomfortable fear or humor. In my mind, I tried to defend the film from the audience laughing. However, I knew they were right. The film was often ridiculous. 

Hereditary is a mish-match of Biblical, occult, and B horror flick plot elements. I can’t even write that good performances are wasted. None of the performances were noteworthy. They could have used cardboard cutouts with proximity censors that made noises as you passed instead of actors and you wouldn’t have missed much. 

There is little to redeem the film except that there were a couple of actual scares and it wasn’t too long. Oh yeah, the dioramas in the film were spectacular, but they were underutilized. The music was unobtrusive, mostly, and it was shot competently. That’s as high as the praise goes. 

The tone of the film changed so rapidly that it felt like it was authored by two or more writers. The film had some great scares, some of the stupidest plot elements, and poorly done action scenes. The fetishism with heads in the film was at first shocking and then it became ridiculous. 

The plot was a patchwork of elements that didn’t had no unifying theme. The foreshadowing in the film didn’t pan out and there were elements that were featured briefly and were dropped. Hereditary didn’t know what kind of horror film it wanted to be and several times made the wrong choices. 

Rating: Rent it/ Stream it. If it’s Halloween and you want two and a half genuine scares, see Hereditary. Otherwise, rewatch Get Out!, a film that only increases in quality with each lesser horror film I see. 

Tex Shelters